The year he is ten, Daniel Jennings meets a mermaid. With a single word, she opens the world for him, though he must puzzle out her meaning over another ten years on the wind-scoured coast of Coquille, the Pacific Northwest island upon which Daniel lives with his grandfather. They are a quiet pair, islands themselves. Daniel, for instance, never tells his grandfather about the key that a sea otter brings to him after the mermaid slips away. The boy wears the key on a string around his neck and soon learns its miraculous powers for saving life. His grandfather never tells him of a girl whose name Daniel knows -- but does not recognize until after the old man can tell him nothing. Daniel's is a story of marvelous happenings, told in the rapt and measured voice of a young man for the first time finding peace after tumult, pattern beneath life's apparent imbalance.